Friday, February 11, 2011

I've got an Itch that Needs to be Fixed...

I love this time of year for various reasons, the smell of fresh Spring flowers, the chances to wear your own rendition of the new S/S collections, the upheaval of traditional S/S food and more besides. The main reason for me is the various chances of consuming chocolate, Valentines Day, Pancake Tuesday, Easter, My's endless! However Himself may see this as counteractive to my "I'm going to get fit again" regime (It's a viscous dictators regime where he rules supreme and forces me to take stairs.)

Moving on, last night I had an unbelievable chocolate craving after flicking through a few cook books of mine. So in honor of V-Day and all that is indulgent about the day, I'm gonna turn chef one last time for V-Day.

Dark Chocolate Soup

with Cinnamon Croutons

Who doesn’t like soup?!

Makes 8


Dark Chocolate Soup

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of water

pinch of salt

6 cups of half and half ( half milk, half double cream)

2 tsps instant espresso powder

24oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate finely chopped

8 small scoops vanilla ice-cream

Cinnamon Croutons

1 loaf of bought pound cake

1/2 cup of sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of unsalted, melted butter


  1. Combine the sugar and the water in a large sauce pan over a medium heat. Cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and starts to change colour.
  2. Increase the heat to high and boil until the syrup turns a deep amber colour, 4-5 mins. NB: watch very carefully because this can burn quickly!Immediately remove from the heat and add the salt and half-and-half, the carmel will start hissing at you.
  3. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the caramel in the half-and-half, about 2mins.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the espresso and chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Divide into 8 shallow soup bowls. Carefully place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the centre of each bowl and float 4 pound cake croutons around each scoop of ice-cream.
  6. Serve Immediately.


  1. Preheat the grill.
  2. Cut a razor thin slice from both ends of the pound cake to reveal the interior.cut the trimmed loaf croswise into 8 equal slices.
  3. Trim each slice to form perfect, uniform squares. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  4. Brush both sides of the croutons with the melted butter and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar.
  5. Place the slices on a large baking tray and grill until the sugar on top starts to bubble and turn brown, 1-2mins. Remove from the oven, turn over and grill the other side for a further 1-2 mins.
  6. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool, use a serrated knife to carefully cut each slice into 4 equal squares.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For my lazy Italian Lovely....

Now for those of you who know me, yes Sexy Exy I'm talking about you in lovely irresistibly tight blue trousers, you will know that I've fallen under the evil charm of the youngest Semprini and the rest of the family, cats and all! So in true me style, this V-Day post is dedicated to Himself, a main course inspired by his Italian and Spanish roots.....SOOOO it's completely unItalian and Spanish in every single way. But he loves it.

Now in my mind, Italian food is romantic but it's a type of food that for me is purely for comfort due to the often messy, drippy nature of it all. Brilliant, yes. Tasty, yes. Half the contents of a piece of handmade ravioli stuck to the side of your face, sexy...not quite.

So after careful consideration I agreed (with myself, naturally) that for food to be sexy and romantic, spice is essential. Flavors that hint of the possibility of a return of The Ballet Russe and it's middle eastern inspired food. This time though, I'm going to stretch a little further east for the inspiration.

Ginger & Lime Chicken with Sweet Potato Mash
Ginger to fire the blood.


Zest and juice of 1 lime
1tbsp maple syrup or clear honey
Thumb-size Piece fresh Root Ginger cut into matchsticks
1tsp of Grated Root Ginger
2x Skinless Chicken Breasts
450g Sweet Potatoes, roughly chopped
1tbsp Olive Oil
2tbsp Creme Fraiche

NB: I keep my ginger root frozen as it last longer and is often a little easier to cut. Also It's easier to grate and is perfect to grate into apple juice to add a little kick.
  1. Mix half the lime zest and all the juice with the maple syrup and the grated ginger. Slash each chicken breast 3-4 times with a sharp knife. Place in the bowl of marinade for 10mins.
  2. Cook the sweet potatoes in a pot of salted water for 10-12 mins until tender. Drain and mash well, adding the rest of the zest and the creme fraiche. Season well.
  3. Grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes until cooked through and the top lightly caramelised.
  4. Heat the oil in a small frying pan until it's really hot. Add the ginger and garlic. Fry until crisp then remove the ginger and garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon. Stir in the ginger&garlic infused oil to the mash.
  5. Divide the potato between two plates, in the centre of each plate. Place a chicken fillet on each mound and then scatter the crispy ginger and garlic around it. Serve with sugar snap peas.
  6. Enjoy bambino

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Critic Goes Chef Has The Look of Love....

You gaze deeply into each others eyes, oblivious to the candle light sending your shadows dancing across the wall. The smell of fresh roses wafts through the room, mixing with her perfume....

Hands up those of you who will be hoping to spending an evening like this but will more than likely end up with smudges of flour across your nose, a decent burn mark on the arm and in a foul mood as various things will have burned simultaneously? *raises hand*

Well you're in luck! Here is the first installment on the V-Day "Critic Goes Chef."

So, ideally for V-Day you don't want food that could make a mess or potentially be smeared across a face or dress. (We females do not take to that kindly, a lot of effort has been put into our ensemble!) Nor do we want food that will get caught in the teeth, spinach may taste yummy but it fails to set a romantic mood.

Halloumi Skewers with Parsley and Lemon Salsa

It's quick. It's easy. It's not overly messy. Perfect.


2 x 250g Haloumi Cheese
4tbs Olive Oil
32 wooden skewers

Lemon Salsa
3tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
15 Black Olives (chopped finely)
A Small Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley (alternatively, like me, use Coriander) Finely Chopped
1tsp Small Capers (rinsed)
Zest of 2 Lemons
2tsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 Small Red Onion

  1. Place all of the salsa ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Cut each block of halloumi into 8 equal slices. Cut each slice in half so you end up with 32 pieces
  3. Heat 1tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Brown the halloumi on both sides then drain on some paper towel. Push the halloumi onto the skewers so it looks like a lollipop. NB: These will need to be done in batches, adding oil each time.
  4. Serve warm with the salsa.
  5. Gaze into each others eyes
  6. Realize somethings burning in the kitchen
  7. Panic!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Way to a Man's Heart is Food..

Yes, this is highly true. It's quite easy to find a man who likes food, but finding a man who shares your sometimes overwhelming passion for food is something rarer. Once you've found him, don't let him go, this is best done by luring him back into your lair with little mini cakes or treats. Alternatively bribe him with sex and food. Usually works!

Alas, V-Day is upon us. Never believe a couple when they say they're excited for Valentines day. They're lying. The bastards! For those who are single, Valentines day is a day seemingly designed to mock their singledom by flocks of couples looking doppily into each others eyes and whispering non-sensicle words into each others ears. For couples it's an apparent affirmation of their love for one another in the form of the traditional red heart on a card and a present. This bit is fine, it's just the finding of all of these things that is the pain, also the evil looks you receive from a single shopkeeper as you pick a card out. Jealousy was a colour that did not suit her!

ANYWAY, V-Day rambling over. It's all well and good to go out for a romantic meal on V-Day, although every other person and their partner will also be sharing this date with you. Now I have a pet hate of people who claim that making a nice home-made diner for V-Day is cheap and nasty, clearly neither of them can cook and seem to have neglected the recent climate.

So it is with my happy heart that I would like to say that in the lead up to V-Day I will be doing a mini series of Critic Goes Chef, with various recipes that are inspired or dedicated to love and all it represents. After all, nobody can go to bed with the one they love on an empty stomach!

PS: Funnily enough the Valentines Day heart is based one the shape of a woman's bum when she's leaning over, not the anatomical heart. Thank you The Big Bang Theory for that, and who said you can't learn anything from tv!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Do Speak Italiano

Well, I actually can't speak a word of Italian apart from "Lets Go", my experience of Italian is usually point at what I want and hope for the best. Worked out very very well recently however!

This is just a general forewarning that things around here may have a little injection of proper Italian and Spanish food. This is mainly due to a certain Mr. Semprini who has magically whisked me off my feet with culinary delights via his family. His family manage to be blessed with Spanish and Italian roots allowing for high cheek boned, dark toned cooks who manage to turn a domestic kitchen into a haven of culinary delights. Cooking companions often being feline begging for food or a hen wandering inside for any little scraps left out.

All in all, I shall be watching closely to the cooking and try and take a few notes. That is if I'm able to tear myself away from watching it all in absolute awe as this cooking has a singular fluid movement that allows for socializing, tasting and laughter. The complete opposite to my rushed, choppy thrown together meals.

The Youngest of the Semprini Family (He's still older than me!) providing a suitable meal for me after work.